The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora – more commonly referred to as CITES – is an international agreement between government that aims to ensure that trade does not end up damaging the survival of certain endangered species.
Today, CITES gives various levels of protection to more than 30,000 species of animals and plants, whether they are traded live or not. Trade in international wildlife is estimated to be worth billions of euro each year, with millions of plants and animals – and products derived from them – being traded each year.
The level of exploitation of some plants and animals is high and the trade in them, together with other factors, such as habitat loss, is capable of heavily depleting their populations and even bringing some species close to extinction. While many wildlife species that are being traded are not on the ‘endangered list’, there is still the need for agreements to ensure the sustainability of this type of trade to safeguard these resources.
Although all countries that have agreed to CITES are bound to take appropriate measures to enforce the provisions of the convention, there are always ways in ways that they can be violated, for example by smuggling and false certification and documents.
Locally, a number of Authorities work hand in hand to curb illegal trafficking of animal and plant species, with MEPA, the Customs Department and the Police Department taking a leading role. As the designated CITES Management Authority, MEPA is also responsible for the disposal of any confiscated specimens. In the case of live animals, there are three main options – keeping it in captivity, returning it to the wild in its country of origin or euthanizing it. The decision is based on the most humane option and on the conservation of existing wild populations of the species in question.